UMass Boston Art Students Take Part in the “Pop-Up Project”
On Friday, 13 students in the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Art Department will show off their work in three storefronts, two of them vacant, as part of a project to kick off an arts-based initiative aimed at revitalizing Upham’s Corner.
The “Pop-Up Project: Synonym for Change” is a kickoff event for the UrbanSites @ Upham’s Corner Collaborative, a collaboration between the William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black Culture, Upham’s Corner Main Street, Inc., and UMass Boston’s Art Department. A reception starts at 6 p.m. Friday at 545 Columbia Road, with the gallery showcase open from 7 to 9 p.m. at 21 Stoughton Street and 547 Columbia Road.
Upham’s Corner is a Boston neighborhood retail district that is home to the country’s second oldest cemetery, the Dorchester North Burying Ground, and the 1,400-seat Strand Theatre. It is the Strand Theatre that first caught the eye of Barbara Lewis, associate professor of English and director of the Trotter Institute
Lewis wrote a concept paper for developing the Strand. After being awarded a public grant for $5,000, Lewis teamed up with Upham’s Corner Main Street, UMass Boston’s Emerging Leaders Program, the Division of Government Relations and Public Affairs, and the Art Department to bring about attention to the cultural and historical richness of the area.
Lewis would like the Upham’s Corner area to be designated a Cultural District.
“It adds to our sense of our pride. We live here in the midst of amazing history, not only from the point of view of the founding fathers, but also in terms of the business history of the area, which is not given the attention it deserves,” Lewis says.
Five interns in the ELP worked with Lewis and Upham’s Corner Main Street, a nonprofit organization that works to support the Upham’s Corner business district, to develop a community survey to see what residents of Upham’s Corner want from a cultural perspective. An undergraduate intern is now sending out that survey and tabulating the results. Another UMass Boston student is working on a cultural map of the area.
The “Pop-Up Project: Synonym for Change” event came about as Lewis, MacCarthy and others brainstormed ways to kick off the UrbanSites @ Upham’s Corner Collaborative. (The Trotter Institute is underwriting the event.) Each student artist was given a synonym of the word “change” to interpret in his or her work.
“Showing on Stoughton Street is a great opportunity to foreground Dorchester’s creative capital and activate underutilized space,” says Associate Professor of Art Ann Torke. “And artists have always been integral to revitalization efforts.”
Max MacCarthy, the executive director of Upham’s Corner Main Street, says the art showcase will serve additional purposes as well.
“By having art and a reception in vacant storefronts, we are helping to market the spaces and cut down our vacancy rates. In fact, we will be taking proactive measures during the event to get people’s minds engaged around possibly fulfilling these vacancies. This will be a really positive event for this neighborhood that will hopefully bring down some of the negative stigmas associated with Upham’s Corner and Dorchester as a whole,” MacCarthy says.
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